Losing Sales By Overcharging For Shipping And Handling

As a serious seller on eBay you're familiar with their fee circumventing rules. If not, visit: http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/listing-circumventing.html.

In a nutshell their rule is that you are not allowed to put an item up for bid for a penny and charge $100 for shipping and handling (S&H) in an attempt to avoid the transaction fee. Since we are not trying to avoid fees we all follow the rules ? right? To a certain extent yes, but many sellers are still stretching the bubble by over charging for S&H in an attempt to maximize their profits and losing bidders in the process - the end result is the opposite of what they hoped for. Ultimately they reduce their sales and although these efforts fit within eBay's policies, when extreme, they are considered an unfair practice by many buyers.

I'll give you an example. I play in a Texas-No-Hold-Em poker game once a month - just a bunch of friends who get together, play a little poker, talk about their lives and have some fun. I thought it would be nice if we had some 'professional-style' poker chips so went to eBay to buy some. I like to think of myself as an intelligent eBay shopper so I watched the auctions for a few days and noticed that the final price averaged $60 for the chips I wanted (retail is about twice that at a local store). The market was determining the price, or was it?

As I watched these auctions I noticed an interesting problem, the shipping charges varied greatly. For the sake of this example let's say one seller was offering S&H at $20, another at $30 and one $50. We'll call them Seller A, Seller B and Seller C. As a buyer, if I was willing to accept the price determined by the market ? in this case $60, then the final cost of the item from each of these sellers would be:

Seller A: $60 + $20 = $80
Seller B: $60 + $30 = $90
Seller C: $60 + $50 = $110

I did some additional homework and discovered the package would weigh 17 pounds, the size would not increase shipping costs and the sellers were all in my state. I went to the UPS and Fed-X web sites and plugged in the needed information for shipping cost estimates. The results were $11 and $17. All things being equal the total cost of the chips should be around $71-$78. So which seller's auction did I bid on? Only one ? Seller A ? and I got the chips for $52, plus S&H ($72). If I hadn't won that auction I may have bid on Seller B's but probably would have lowered my total bid amount by $10. Seller C's auction closed without a singe bid.

Seller A got my business, Seller B may have, and as far as I was concerned, and apparently other bidders, Seller C can go pound sand. The outcome of this example should be pretty clear and it should be obvious by now that you don't want to be Seller C. Although you may get an occasional windfall with less savvy bidders, in the long term your sales will be much less than that of other sellers of similar items.

That's not to say you shouldn't recoup your shipping and handling costs in the process. We're not in business to lose money, but make sure you are not trying to pad your 'profit' at the expense of loosing bidders and ultimately sales. Take the time to do similar research on your own items and market niche and find out where you stand with your shipping and handling charges. If you're fair to your customers they will think better of you for it and in the long run your sales will be better.

© Copyright 2005 Steven Woodward - All Rights Reserved

About the Author:
Steven Woodward is the owner, editor and publisher of the Auction Sellers Network (ASN); a web site for individuals and companies who are serious about utilizing the online auction marketplace for their business. In addition to topical articles, ASN provides an extensive resource center, news feeds, member forums and classified ads. For more information or to become a member please visit http://www.AuctionSellersNetwork.com.

No permission is needed to reproduce an unedited copy of this article as long the About the Author tag is left intact and included. We do request that we be informed where it is posted and reciprocal links will be considered.

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